Wednesday, August 21, 2013

[NEWS BITES] MEX opening in Bloomfield Hills Labor Day weekend

MEX exterior.
Celebrity chef Zack Sklar (because we are all celebrities in our own minds, are we not?) is opening MEX in Bloomfield Hills later this month. His first solo restaurant Social Kitchen + Bar in Birmingham has been a huge success and his plan was always to grow a restaurant empire to rival Lettuce Entertain You in Chicago, so this is his next step towards that. Much like with Social, a great deal of attention has been paid to the concept and design. Being over in Bloomfield Hills, Sklar's biggest competitor will be fellow restaurateur Bill Roberts of the Roberts Restaurant Group, which owns both Roadside B+G and Cafe ML in the area, neither of which are anything close in concept. And again, as a former area resident, I can tell you that 20 new restaurants with the exact same concept could open in the area and all would do well.

Huerto Tequila Bar and Grill, opening in near-ish West Bloomfield this fall, will be MEX's biggest competitor in terms of concept, with a design by Ron Rea, a big brick fireplace in the dining room and a second one on the huge outdoor patio, SW/Mexican/American food, and 75 different tequilas. Both of these restaurants seem to be ushering in the second wave of the contemporary Mexican cuisine-and-tequila-bar concept (and let's not forget La Feria in Midtown, also opening this fall). The first time around, the model didn't have much luck - there was the recent Barrio bomb in Birmingham, and those of us who have lived here for more than 5 minutes aaaaaaaaaaall remember Agave. (When the day comes that Midtown Inc. finally removes that sign it will be a very, very sad day. Also, Sue, can I have it? No but seriously.) In both cases, however, it would seem the problem stemmed more from mismanagement on owners' and/or landlords' ends than anything else, having much less to do with the popularity (or lack thereof) of the concept.

Below is the presser. Those who read it and think "Rick Bayless" are not in the wrong.

MEX interior
After opening Detroit Metro’s hottest new restaurant, Social Kitchen and Bar in June 2012, 27-year-old chef Zack Sklar is brining his trademark innovative style to his second restaurant endeavor, MEX.

The menu will feature authentic Mexican comfort food like carne asada, corn tamales and queso fondido, as well as homemade horchata, more than 100 types of tequila, and an inspired selection of handcrafted cocktails and margaritas.

“I think Detroit needs this,” Sklar says. “Mexican is one of my favorite cuisines in the world, but in Suburban Detroit it can be difficult to find the genuine, high-quality Mexican food I’ve learned to love, so I created the Mexican restaurant of my dreams.”

While traditional Mexican will be the restaurant’s lifeblood, the menu will also feature modern twists on classics, like hot dog taquitos and Mexican-spiced edamame. A variety of “stone bowls” (including a vegan option) incorporate a mix of beans, vegetables and spices. Cooking the stone bowls at 550 degrees and serving them in their vessel straight out of the oven ensures the Spanish rice is cooked to crispy perfection while meat and vegetables remain tender.

Desserts will include tres leches, corn-flake-crusted fried ice cream, and key-lime avocado pie.

Every dish on the menu will feature ingredients specially imported from all over the globe — including morita chiles, knob onions, a variety of quesos, and cinnamon straight from Mexico — to ensure a level of unmatched quality and authenticity. The 100% corn tortillas used in many of the entrees are made fresh daily.

In addition to its formidable list of tequilas — including some artful infusions —specialty drinks like mole margaritas and chipotle raspberry margaritas will round out a bar that also included 30 kinds of beers including eight on tap, and an inventive wine list.

The 200-seat multilevel restaurant is modeled after the work of iconic Mexican architect Louis Barragán. Mexican and Michigan culture collide at this unique building, featuring floors salvaged from Detroit homes built in the 1920s, and a kaleidoscopic array of colors for which Barragán is famous. Numerous garages convert the indoor bar into an outdoor fiesta in the summer.

“There’s nothing like this building and there’s nothing like this menu in Michigan,” Sklar says. “The refinement of our food, presented in fun casual ways is just what we do. With the approachability of the food and décor, we’re trying to bring over an eclectic youthfulness that’s accessible to everyone, which is exactly what has made Social so successful.”

About Zack Sklar
Chef Zack Sklar has been lauded for his innovative presentation and conceptual approach to classic cuisine. As a student at the world-renowned Culinary Institute of America, Sklar started his catering company Cutting Edge Cuisine in New York City in 2007. After graduating in 2008, the precocious chef returned home to Michigan and brought his business with him. Since then, the 27-year-old has made his mark on the Metro-Detroit culinary scene, most recently with the 2012 opening of Social Kitchen and Bar, a refined comfort food restaurant that has turned the Detroit Metro dining scene on its head. Sklar, who now employs 175 staff members, has also developed a growing list of high-profile clients, such as the Ritz Carlton, the Detroit Pistons, Microsoft, Mitt Romney and Dan Gilbert. Future plans include partnering with Gilbert on a restaurant in the city of Detroit.

“I returned to Michigan because I believe I can make an impact here, and so far I’ve been able to do that,” Sklar says. “In the Detroit area I’ve been able to experiment and create something totally unique in a way that wouldn’t be possible in any other city. I’ve brought in talent from all over the country to make sure my customers get impeccable service, and I’m really proud and excited to be able to bring a taste of true Mexican culture to an area that’s starved for it.”